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Types of Fractures & First Aid Treatment

Overview

A fall too hard, and you might end up with a fracture. Here is a low-down on those painful fractures.

Bones are rigid, but they break when force is applied to them. Just as a plastic ruler breaks after being bent too far, when there is high impact- the bone can break too.

What is a Fracture?

A fracture is a complete or partial breakage of the bone due to stress or high impact forces. People suffering from certain medical conditions like osteoporosis and bone cancer are more prone to bone fractures.

What are the Types of Fractures? 

All fractures can be broadly classified into simple and compound fractures.

A simple fracture is one where the skin remains intact. A compound fracture, on the other hand, also involves open wounds. Since open injuries are prone to infection, compound fractures are more severe and are susceptible to infection.

Fractures are further classified as:

  • Compression fracture. These are also known as VCFs or vertebral compression fractures. These happen when a part of your vertebra (bony block) in your spinal cord collapses. VCFs commonly occur in the middle region of your spine (thoracic spine). These fractures can lead to bone deformity, intense pain, and height loss.
  • Complete fracture. As the name suggests,  a complete fracture is when the broken bones separate from each other completely. Complete fractures are of two types – oblique and transverse. In the former type, the bone breaks in a plane oblique line along the axis of your bone. Whereas in the latter (transverse) type, the bone breaks straight across.
  • Incomplete fracture. Also known as a minor fracture. It happens when your bone cracks (hairline fracture), but they do not completely separate from each other. You may experience intense pain that can worsen when touching the affected area or moving it.
  • Linear fracture. It is a type of fracture in which the crack is a thin line without any additional lines splitting from it. Moreover, it also does not cause any distortion or compression to the bones.
  • Transverse fracture. It is a fracture type in which the bone breaks at 90 degrees (right angle) to the bone’s plane. It happens when a strong impact takes place perpendicularly to the axis of the bone.
  • Spiral fracture. Also known as torsion fracture, this type of fracture occurs when a rotating force or torque is applied to the bone along its axis. It generally happens when your body is in motion with one end set on the ground.

At times, fractures are also classified anatomically — specifying the body part.

Why do Fractures Hurt So Much?

Though bones do not have sensory receptors, fractures are typically painful because of internal bleeding into nearby soft tissues, muscle spasms trying to hold bone fragments in place, and damage to adjacent structures like vessels or nerves.

Some Cautionary Advice in the Case of Fractures

Because fractures are very painful and make it difficult, if not impossible, to use that injured part of the body, most people call a doctor soon. However, in some cases, a person can use a fractured arm or leg. Just because you can use that fractured limb does not mean that you do not have a fracture. If you think a bone is broken, seek medical help immediately. An X-ray and a medical examination generally become necessary to tell for sure and to ensure proper treatment.

When Should You Consult a Doctor?

As soon as you fall or trip, followed by pain in any part of your body, you should seek immediate medical help. If you see someone else involved in an accident, you should rush them to get medical assistance. 

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How are Different Types of Bone Fractures Diagnosed?

Your doctor is likely to identify a fracture by physical examination and obtaining X-ray images. In many cases, especially in older adults, X-rays may fail to show a crack. In such scenarios, your doctor is likely to perform other imaging tests, including:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • CT (computed tomography) scan
  • Bone scan

In some cases, even after the diagnosis of the condition, your doctor may suggest other tests, including an X-ray of blood vessels or an angiogram, to diagnose damage to the surrounding tissues.

How is a Fracture Treated?

There is one basic rule followed for all forms of treatment for broken bones: the broken pieces must be put back in place and prevented from moving out of place until they are healed.

Fractures are typically treated by realigning the bone and immobilizing the injured bone by placing it in a cast for at least eight weeks. Internal correction (fractures treatment) is required in more severe fractures and may involve rods, screws, and pins to ensure the bone’s accurate realignment. Immobilization ensures optimum internal growth as the bone heals, and taking calcium supplements with other prescribed medication allows the patient a measure of relief. After the bone’s regrowth, the treatment extends to physiotherapy sessions to help strengthen the bone.

First Aid for Fractures

Here are some first aid for fractures:

  • First and foremost, moving a broken or dislocated bone can cause additional damage to the bone, surrounding nerves, tissues, and blood vessels. So, restrict movement and keep it as still as possible.
  • Ensure that the injured person is not in a state of shock, and use a splint to immobilize the bone till the person gets appropriate medical attention.
  • If there is an open wound, cover it with a clean cloth or bandage on the way to further medical treatment.
  • Keep the injured body part elevated, as it helps reduce bleeding and swelling.

What are the Complications of Different Types of Fractures?

The possible complications with different types of fractures include the following:

  • Malunion. It happens when the fracture shifts to another location or does not heal properly.
  • Bone growth disruption. If you had a bone fracture in your childhood, affecting the growth plate, that bone’s normal development is likely to get disrupted. It may put you at a higher risk of developing subsequent deformity.
  • Bone marrow infection. If you have a compound fracture that pierces your skin, germs and bacteria can make way to your bone marrow and infect. It can further lead to persistent bone marrow infection or chronic osteomyelitis.
  • Avascular necrosis. If your bone fails to get the essential blood supply, it is likely to cause bone death.

What is the Healing time of a Fractured Bone?

The healing time of a fractured bone after undergoing the necessary treatments may vary from person to person, depending on the condition of their bone and surrounding soft tissues and any underlying health condition. However, a broken bone is likely to take around six to eight weeks to heal.

What are Some Prevention Tips for a Fracture?

Here are some tips for fracture prevention given below:

  • Make sure to wear proper footwear, especially in slippery and uneven places.
  • Make sure to wear protective gear, such as a helmet, knee pads, etc., while riding a motorbike.
  • Make sure to have your seat belts on while driving a car.
  • Keep the stairs and walkways of your home and office clean, free, and dry to avoid slip and fall.
  • Make sure to use a ladder carefully.
  • Make sure to follow fracture prevention tips given by your doctor if you are pregnant or have osteoarthritis.

Conclusion

It is better to prevent fracture, but if you have a fracture, seek medical attention immediately.  Meanwhile, you reach a hospital or medical help arrives, try the first-aid tips and immobilize as much as possible.

You can recover completely after treatment and management. Make sure to take enough rest and follow the instructions of your doctor. If you notice any concerning symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.

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